Any slight misgivings I had about running for School Committee evaporated when Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. I am the daughter of a former elementary school principal and a former high school counselor, who served in public schools for their entire careers. Their dedication, their struggles, and their joys were part of our family dinner conversation throughout my childhood and the value of a strong public school system was ingrained. My parents’ advice to me when I had my own children: “Find a community that values its public schools, and get involved. Schools don’t take care of themselves.”
Following their advice, we chose Lexington and we got involved. We are grateful every day that our children have the opportunities this community offers. Over the years, however, we have become more and more concerned about the future of our schools. Our School Committee’s response to overcrowding has been largely unsuccessful, despite millions having been spent on planning. Important educational improvements have been passed over due to budget concerns. Our students are performing well on tests, but are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.
In other words, our schools are not taking care of themselves. I am running for School Committee because we can do better. We can truthfully acknowledge the immediacy and extent of our space needs and put forward the most cost-effective plans to meet those needs. We can prioritize within our operating budget so important educational improvements are not lost. We can pioneer new ways to deliver our curriculum that allow teachers more time and more freedom, and allow students opportunities to become more engaged, motivated, and creative. Most important, our School Committee can prioritize educational excellence and student health in all decisions.
With so much uncertainty about educational policy directives that may result from our federal and state government over the next few years, strong local school system leadership is particularly important. Our School Committee must be willing to speak up for the needs of our students and teachers. Competing municipal projects and limited taxpayer resources will require negotiation and compromise but our School Committee members must come to those discussions with a clear mission: to advocate for what is best for our schools. It remains to be seen whether Secretary DeVos shares that mission, but we must make sure Lexington does not lose sight of it.